The Dordogne River Valley:
Three Reasons to Love it, One Reason to Hate it!
That is one pretty strong statement I know, but let me explain my thinking.
First, there is history. Layers upon layers of fabulous, interesting, evocative history! Really, I could just stop there. But, I won’t.
That’s one of the many delights the Dordogne River Valley offers. And, we were giddy with excitement upon reaching this magnificently beautiful and, until relatively recently, secluded corner of France.
There are few places I would rather be than France, and in France there are few places I would rather be than the Dordogne. Well, if really pressed, I might think of some others.
Chateau of the Dordogne: Castles at Every Turn
The peace and tranquility of the region belies the fact that the history of this place is a very violent one. The castles and other fortifications perched on the hill tops and along the river banks are a chilling reminder of the conflict and strife that was so regularly a part of life for the people living here.
Jo has a thing she says whenever we come upon a special place. A special place like the Dordogne River Valley. “Honey, can we move here?!?” I think that is a pretty common reaction to the villages that dot the banks of the river and the surrounding countryside.
I dare you, see if you don’t have the same reaction. Take your time soak it all in.
First, all along the river you’ll find canoe and kayak rentals that will allow you to gently float the river. Imagine. Slowly passing under unwavering eyes of the French behind the cold stone walls of Chateau de Beynac, and then, only a stone’s throw away, the equally unforgiven English fortifications at Chateau de Castelnaud.
In fact, it is said that there are some 1001 castles in the area. Sounds like a number made up by a PR firm to me. But, anyway you look at it there are a lot. Of course, there is much more to see along the river than castles. Like the, “Ohhh… Can we move here?”, villages!”
Caves of Antiquity
For the uninitiated, and I would have counted myself among them, the Dordogne River Valley is home to some of the most significant prehistoric sites ever found. Cave dwellings, cave art, and Neanderthal artifacts are among the most important ever found.
And, you can actually visit, and enter, some of them!
Talk about a fantastical journey into the past! You will have goose bumps as you walk in a space where the early dwellers did so many, many, many years earlier. If that don’t get your blood up, there’s no hope!
The caves at Lascaux are probably the most widely known, but you can’t get into the real deal there because all the people who visited caused such deterioration of the art. Now you must walk through a perfect replica. Not quite the same thing.
We visited a smaller, lesser known site, called Pech Merle. I can not compare the two experiences, as I haven’t been to Lascaux.
I can tell you this. We climbed out into the heat of the day completely blown away. Dumbfounded! Awestruck!
Dordogne River Valley: Home to Great Food
The Dordogne region is known for its gastronomic ability and variety. Some of which we appreciated, and some not so much. At the head of our list? Cheese! Bien sûr!
How do the French do it? There are so many different varieties that it boggles the mind. And, I will admit, there have been a few that I have found unpalatable.
But, pour a nice Bourdeax, have a fresh baguette, some saucissons, and, of course, cheese, and you have a great meal! Délicieux!
But, cheese is not the whole story. Not by a long shot! This is the home of fois gras. A paté of duck or goose liver whose flavor has been described as rich, buttery, and delicate.
I’m afraid that I can neither confirm not deny that, because the process, which I won’t share with you as it, grosses me out.
I’ll stick with the vast variety delicious vegetable, olives, cheeses, wines, and other delicacies. And, be quite happy doing so.
So, I promised you three things that you would love about the Dordogne River Valley. The third is:
A languid river that meanders through the countryside. Deep gorges that furrow the region. Forests of lush green. The Dordogne is simply a beautiful verdant oasis of peace and calm, and a fabulous place to get away from it all.
I can only echo my wife’s sentiments, “Oooo…. Can we move here?”
The One Thing You Will Hate About the Dordogne River Valley
Ok, I’ll admit that I was really having a hard time coming up with some thing you would hate. After all, it is such a great place. I came up with, “You’ll hate because you’ll want to stay, and probably can’t.” That sounded like a cop-out though.
Hmmm…. Let’s see. Ok, how about this, “You’ll hate it because it is so isolated.” Well, sort of, I suppose. But, that also makes it great.
So you choose.
This is such a wonderful place to visit, and maybe stay!
Dordogne River Valley: Places to Stay
There is no shortage of great places to stay during your visit to the Dordogne River Valley. From hotels to bed and breakfast lodgings you have a wide variety. Whether you prefer being in the middle of it all in town to a country hideaway with acreage, privacy, and pool, you are going to find it here.
While in the Dordogne, we stayed in the town of Sarlat. Sarlat is a really great market town with a lot happening, and we like that experience rather than being out in the countryside.
We chose the Hotel Montaigne for a few reasons.
- It’s very close in to the middle of town, just a block away from the pedestrian area.
- The prices are very moderate, and we never like to spend an arm and a leg if we don’t have to.
- The hotel is small, friendly, and comfortable as they are air-conditioned. (Not always something you find in France.)
At the time of this update (4/21/2015) prices for a room with bath or shower are running about $73.00! That is such a deal for such a nice place. Not 5 star, mind you, but clean and comfortable.2 Place Pasteur
More on Hotel Montaigne
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